I was always a pretty focused kid. When I was about eight years old, my sister and I got desks for Christmas, and we set them up so that she could be my secretary and we’d play “office.” I would have my sister “hold my calls” so I could make important decisions.

I had no idea what that even meant at the time, but it was, in retrospect, a sign that I always had the inclination to work in business and decide things.

As a teenager, I was an academic, a band geek, and I worked as much as I possibly could, starting as a babysitter at the age of 12. All of that didn’t leave a lot of time for experimenting with beauty products and the things I touch today. But I always loved to shop, and I loved being in stores. And when I was 16 or 17, I remember just wanting to walk around a department store in the evenings for fun.

After high school, I went to Boston College (BC), where I majored in finance and marketing. I spent a lot of time on schoolwork because I was on a scholarship and it was important to keep my grades up. I was also still in a band — the BC marching band where I played flute and piccolo — and as part of my financial package, I worked in the band’s office.

I remember being focused on taking a path to a job that interested me and that would support the lifestyle I wanted. I spent a lot of time thinking about where I was headed — corporate finance, fund management — and taking the accounting and finance classes I needed to get there. Somewhere along the way, I decided marketing also had an interesting analytic element to it, so I added that to the portfolio of things I was learning.

My senior year, I took a capstone class in strategy, and the lights went on for me. What I loved best about that experience was that it combined both my marketing and analytic inclinations. I decided if I could find a role in strategy, that would be the best fit for me. So, as a result, when I graduated, I took a job with Accenture in their strategy consulting program, which allowed me to bring my right brain and left brain together.

When I started at Accenture, I thought for sure they’d put me in their finance practice. Academically that’s what I’d trained for, and I’d interned at finance companies. But it was 2001 when the economy was tough and the finance sector wasn’t exactly booming. So, instead, I was placed in retail. And if I’m honest, I was mad.

I thought retail was silly, even frivolous. And I was like, “What am I going to do here?” But I wasn’t in a position to argue because I’d graduated with college loans and needed to work.

I told myself, “I’m just going to do this and hopefully I’ll get myself moved over to finance quickly.” My first few projects were with a department store and a specialty retailer, and I worked on promo optimization, assortment optimization, localization, how to get the right outcome, how to get the right product in the right place. And that was the turning point. I fell in love with retail and never looked back.

The rest of my time in consulting was spent entirely on retail and CPG [consumer packaged goods] clients, and I discovered a passion I never knew I had.

That’s how I landed at CVS. As a consultant, I’d been traveling like crazy and was out of town six days a week. I loved the work, but I was about to get married. So, when CVS called and gave me an opportunity to work locally, it seemed like the right time to take all the skills I’d built in consulting and bring them to one place.

I’ve now been at CVS almost 19 years, and, in that time, I’ve moved through a number of roles. I’ve been an analyst, I’ve worked on a couple of acquisitions, I’ve worked on our strategy team. I’ve been a divisional merchandising manager of our general merchandise business, our personal care business, and our beauty business, all of which led to where I am now.

The partnerships we build as a retailer with the supplier community are about building relationships and driving the best possible outcomes.

If I walked you through every detail, it would take hours.  What I think is most salient about my early experience is that when I started in analytics, I viewed the role of negotiating and working with suppliers as being similar to the experience of buying a used car all day, every day.

But I soon learned that this was wrong, that the kinds of partnerships we build as a retailer working with the supplier community are nothing like buying a used car. It’s about building relationships and driving the best possible outcomes for us and for our suppliers.

Once this was clear to me and I had a real comfort level with what it meant to do that, I reached out to CVS leadership and said, “I don’t know if you would consider me for a category management job, but I’d love the chance to try.” And so, after having spent a couple of years on acquisitions and some other more complicated projects, I moved into my first desk as the category manager for shave.

After that, I was fortunate enough to be put in a number of different roles and moved pretty frequently because I had that consulting skill set.  But there was a moment in my trajectory when I had to really rethink my idea of balance: when my oldest daughter was born.

I’m proud of the impact I feel like I have, and it’s an important part of my story because it’s what’s kept me at CVS — as well as what has kept our team so engaged.

At the time, I found myself in a culture that wasn’t super supportive of working moms. There weren’t a lot of us, and there wasn’t much understanding about the need for flexibility. I’d come home at night and my daughter was already asleep. It wasn’t how I imagined I’d be a mom. And it wasn’t how I imagined I would be an employee. I felt like I was not delivering on either front. So, I did leave CVS for a bit and went to work for a specialty retailer, closer to my house.  To this day, I can’t tell you if that was the right or wrong answer; I cried when I left CVS and I wasn’t super fulfilled in my new role. But I believe it did draw attention to the issues working mothers were having at the time. And, so, when I got a call a while later from CVS and they asked, “What would it take to bring you back?” I jumped at the chance to return on my own terms. I was the first person in the CVS merchandising organization to work from home, which sounds crazy to say now, because we all do it so fluidly. But at the time, 13 years ago, it wasn’t so commonplace.

After that, a number of other working mothers at CVS also had the opportunity to figure out the best ways to manage those early years. I’m proud of the impact I feel like I had, and it’s an important part of my story because it’s what’s kept me at CVS — as well as what has kept our team so engaged. We allow them to put their families first when they need to.

I have also been lucky enough to have a number of women I’ve worked for who’ve really listened to me and guided me. One of them is Michele Driscoll [VP, Pricing & Value Strategy at CVS Health], who I now get the pleasure and the honor of working alongside as my peer. For many years, she was someone I looked up to. Michele coached and mentored me, and she was a working mom when I was first trying to have kids. She always gave me an empathetic ear and a steady opinion. I was really grateful for that because she was proof it could be done — because she was doing it successfully.

Another important influence on me was Maly Bernstein [CVS Health’s former VP E-Commerce & Omni and VPMM Beauty & Personal Care; she’s now Bluemercury’s CEO]. I worked for Maly in my early days in beauty, and she was really the epitome of what a sponsor should be. We sometimes ask here at CVS “whose papers are you carrying into the room?” And I am certain Maly carried my papers into the room. She was intentional about giving me opportunities to prove what I was capable of, and when it was her time to move on, she helped make it clear that I was the one to step into her shoes. I’m forever grateful for her intentional approach to developing the next in line, and it’s something I think about whenever I talk about sponsorship.

As I stated earlier, as a teenager, I didn’t have much opportunity to touch the stuff I do today. Andrea at 16 would not believe the job in beauty I have now. I now know this space isn’t frivolous. It’s about building confidence and about finding ways to positively impact our customers’ lives. One of the projects I’m proudest of at CVS is Beauty Unaltered. We were floored seeing the initiative’s impact on the industry and our customers. We received letters from organizations that were treating girls with eating disorders and image issues, all thanking us for putting a stake in the ground and taking a stand about transparency. I don’t think I ever could have imagined that I’d have the opportunity to have that kind of impact on people.

Outside of work, I have been married to my best friend, Herb, for 18 years now, which is kind of crazy. We met at band camp when I was a freshman in college. We have three kids: Aria, who’s 13, Mikaela, who’s almost 11, and Tre, who’s 8.  I joke that we’re in our chauffeur era right now.

Our kids are really active in a variety of different competitive sports, so on the weekends we are often running in different directions, in different states. We prioritize that because I believe these activities are giving our kids confidence and community in a way that regular day-to-day school does not. I call this out because my children are biracial, and that’s introduced a new perspective for me. Also, the events of the last few years have really illuminated the need for community and inclusion.

I didn’t really see or understand this when I was younger. But now, through my children’s eyes, I notice when they’re reflected somewhere and when they’re not, and when people and products speak to them — and when they don’t.

That experience has shaped how I show up here at CVS. I encourage the team to think about this when we bring different products to market because we talk about beauty as a source of confidence, but we can’t help people find confidence – especially younger people — if they’re not included.

Say yes to whatever you are asked to do, particularly in the early days of your career.

When it comes to the next generation and gaining your own career confidence, my first piece of advice would be to say yes to whatever you are asked to do, particularly in the early days of your career. And work hard at what you’ve agreed to do — because you probably said yes to something you don’t totally know how to do yet, and that’s okay. You will learn more from tackling the things that are uncomfortable than you will from applying the things you already know.  I also say ask lots of questions, be curious, and expand your view of customers and people that don’t think like you and that have different life experiences.

Finally, embrace self-awareness, but not self-doubt. We all have limitations. We are all learning every day. We all have things we could work on. The key is to not let self-doubt get in the way of working to get better.

Be sure to celebrate this year’s Achiever Award Honorees with 1,000-plus beauty industry executives at CEW’s annual awards luncheon taking place April 25, 2024, in Manhattan. For table and ticket sales, visit cew.org.